Recent Changes to the Illinois Human Rights Act

November 9, 2009

There are two recent changes to the Illinois Human Rights Act that expand protections for employees.  Effective January 1, 2010, individuals who have obtained an order of protection will be protected from unlawful discrimination and retaliation in Illinois.  It will become illegal for most employers to take a negative job action against an employee who has an order of protection in place, where there is no legitimate business reason for the negative job action.

Coupled with the recent changes to a law protecting victims of domestic abuse – the Victim’s Economic Safety and Security Act (VESSA) – this provision will provide greater protection to those employees who have received an order of protection.  If you think that you are being discriminated against because of an issued order of protection, please contact Jensen Law Office, LLC to further discuss your situation.

Secondly, the Governor will likely sign HB0059, a modification to the Illinois Human Rights Act providing several procedural changes.  These changes are largely minor, but one significant change provides that any dismissal of a charge by the Illinois Department of Human Rights, whether due to a lack of substantial evidence or even for jurisdictional issues, can now be pursued in Illinois Circuit Court or in front of the Human Rights Commission, and that action must be filed within 90 days after the receipt of the notice from the Director of the Department of Human Rights.

Governor Quinn is expected to sign HB0059 in the very near future and it will become effective immediately.

Navigating through the Illinois Department of Human Rights can be tricky and cumbersome.  The experienced attorneys at Jensen Law Office, LLC can assist you in navigating those waters. Contact Jensen Law Office, LLC today to discuss your situation in further detail.

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Genetic Information Non-Discrimination Act

October 28, 2009

Passed as an Act to “prohibit discrimination on the basis of genetic information with respect to health insurance and employment,” the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008 (GINA) changes health insurance laws and protects against employment discrimination.  As it relates to employment, “genetic information” includes an individual’s genetic tests, genetic tests of family members or the manifestation of a disease or disorder in family members of individuals.  42 USC §2000ff.  Effective November 21, 2009, it is an unlawful employment practice for an employer to discriminate in the terms and conditions of employment based on genetic information.  42 USC §2000ff-1. It is illegal to retaliate against someone that opposes a practice that is unlawful under GINA or makes a charge under GINA. 42 USC §2000ff-6(f).  It is also illegal for an employer or union to request, require or purchase genetic information with respect to an employee or family member with a few exceptions.   42 USC §2000ff-1 and 42 USC §2000ff-2. Exceptions include the “water cooler acquisition” exception, where the employer inadvertently hears or requests genetic information, or the “commercially available” exception, where an employer purchases documents that are commercially and publicly available that includes family medical history.  42 USC §2000ff-1. Other exceptions include where the employer performs DNA analysis for law enforcement, where the information is provided as part of a Family Medical Leave Certification, or where the employer offers health or genetic services and, pursuant to a written authorization from the individual, provides the individuals genetic information only to the individual and a health care professional or certified genetic counselor and never to the employer except in non-identifying aggregate terms.  42 USC §2000ff-1.

If an employer possesses genetic information, such information must be in separate medical files and treated as a confidential medical record like records under the Americans with Disabilities Act.  Disclosure is limited to government public health agencies where it concerns a contagious disease that presents an imminent hazard and the individual is notified of the disclosure, officials investigating compliance with the law, research in compliance with Federal Regulations, disclosure under compliance with FMLA, or at the written request of the employee.  42 USC §2000ff-5.

Under GINA, employees rights who have been violated are entitled to damages.  Damages that are available are those that are available under other forms of discrimination or retaliation investigated by the EEOC.  If you think that your employer has violated your rights under GINA, please contact Jensen Law Office, LLC to discuss your situation.


Discrimination and Harassment

September 8, 2009

Various laws make it illegal for Employers, through the actions of both co-workers and management, to subject employees to and/or to take adverse employment action against employees based on their membership in a protected class, like their age, race, gender, disability, national origin, religion or sexual orientation.  Examples of adverse employment actions include constructive discharge, termination, refusal to hire, demotion, discrimination or harassment, and exposure to a hostile work environment.

While treatment that an employee might consider “unfair” or “unprofessional” might not rise to the level of being “unlawful,” when that treatment is based on or due to the membership in one of the protected classes, it is prohibited.  If you feel that you have been subjected to or had an adverse employment action taken against you, because of your membership in one of the above classes, or if you wish to further discuss your situation to determine if these laws might apply to you, please contact Jensen Law Office, LLC.